SENATOR KERRY: But we also have to be smart, Jim. And smart means not diverting your attention from the real war on terror in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden and taking if off to Iraq where the 9/11 Commission confirms there was no connection to 9/11 itself and Saddam Hussein, and where the reason for going to war was weapons of mass destruction, not the removal of Saddam Hussein.His main theme for the election:
Somewhere, in an infinity of alternate universes, there must be a place where at this very moment, Ben Stein is wandering the wasteland of Tora Bora with clipboard in hand, stumbling over the rocks, never looking up, and saying, “Osama..? Osama..? Osama..?”
God, the restraint that the President must have when that murdering bastard’s name is mentioned in derision as a sign of Bush’s incompetence. It’s practically superhuman.
First of all, you may recall that three years ago, the President -- correctly, in my estimation -- pointed out that this was not a criminal manhunt for Public Enemy Number One, but rather,
Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism.
“Secret even in success…” An interesting phrase, that. What does that mean?
Osama bin Laden has not been seen since the battle of Tora Bora in December of 2001. Remember now, this is not someone like Abu Nidal, a genuine terror mastermind described by the US State Department as having carried out terrorist attacks in 20 countries, killing or injuring almost 900 persons. Targets include the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, moderate Palestinians, the PLO, and various Arab countries. Major attacks included the Rome and Vienna airports in December 1985, the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul and the Pan Am Flight 73 hijacking in Karachi in September 1986, and the City of Poros day-excursion ship attack in Greece in July 1988
Abu Nidal was rightfully phobic about being photographed. Anonymity was camouflage to him: incredibly tight operational security, even plastic surgery. The man wanted to remain unseen. In fact he did remain unseen, retiring in his golden years to a nice apartment in Baghdad until he was assassinated by Saddam just before the war to maintain the well-established fact that Saddam had no ties to terrorism. No living ties to terrorism. Well, to that terrorist. It’s all very nuanced and sophisticated.
Contrast this behavior to that of Osama bin Laden, who did not operationally plan the 9/11 attacks (see dead underlings, above) but was rather the figurehead for an international organization of many thousands of fanatics, their numbers much thinned now.
Osama made endless videotapes. Lecturing, preaching, instructing, firing an AK-47: all the things that make young jihadis feel funny in the pants. After 9/11, he wowed ‘em in several tapes gloating and laughing over the attack and its aftermath. He was reliably heard on the radio during the final phase of Tora Bora, then…nothing.
Maybe he escaped. It’s possible.
Then came the videotape condemning the Israeli incursion into Ramallah and Jenin…only it didn’t. The US corporate scandals? Silence. Anniversary of Holy Tuesday? Cue the tumbleweeds.
The freaking invasion of a Muslim country by the Great Satan, and this new Caliph, the Leader of the Oppressed, cannot bring himself to shoot a crummy VHS in front of a white wall condemning this outrage? This glory-seeking egomaniac, the New Saladin riding the White Horse across the desert, who practically put out a 10 DVD commemorative set every time the US so much as hiccupped, is now suddenly silent, and has been for three years?
You may call that a Terror Mastermind. I call it a greasy wet spot on the wall of a cave in Afghanistan.
The man is dead. Dead, or just possibly captured. The likelihood of him having been killed at Tora Bora by US “outsourcing” was rising with his deafening silence concerning each American counterstroke and became 100% when nothing was heard from the late Osama after the US invasion of Iraq.
Does President Bush know what became of him? I would say, very likely. We know what did not become of him: he didn’t become a Martyr. He did not become the symbol of Glorious Death resisting the Great Satan. He did not become a Symbol or a Cause or an Example to Them All.
He became, if you will pardon the expression, AWOL. Bugged out. Handed in his walking papers. Fizzle…poof. Gone.
Folks, it’s time to reach down deep and get in touch with our inner adult.George Will suggests that there is something else at work: the continued reluctance of the Old Establishment to credit its opposition with any inner adult at all.
Conservatism's 40-year climb to dominance receives an examination worthy of its complexity in "The Right Nation," the best political book in years. Its British authors, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge of the Economist, demonstrate that conservative power derives from two sources -- its congruence with American values, especially the nation's anomalous religiosity, and the elaborate infrastructure of think tanks and other institutions that stresses that congruence.
Liberals, now tardily trying to replicate that infrastructure, thought they did not need it because they had academia and the major media. But the former marginalized itself with its silliness, and the latter have been marginalized by their insularity and by competitors born of new technologies.
Liberals complacently believed that the phrase "conservative thinker" was an oxymoron. For years -- generations, really -- the prestige of the liberal label was such that Herbert Hoover called himself a "true liberal" and Dwight Eisenhower said that cutting federal spending on education would offend "every liberal -- including me."
Liberalism's apogee came with Lyndon Johnson, who while campaigning against Goldwater proclaimed, "We're in favor of a lot of things, and we're against mighty few." Johnson's landslide win produced a ruinous opportunity -- a large liberal majority in Congress and incontinent legislating. Forty years later, only one-third of Democrats call themselves liberal, whereas two-thirds of Republicans call themselves conservative. Which explains this Micklethwait and Wooldridge observation on the Clinton presidency:
"Left-wing America was given the answer to all its prayers -- the most talented politician in a generation, a long period of peace and prosperity, and a series of Republican blunders -- and the agenda was still set by the right. Clinton's big achievements -- welfare reform, a balanced budget, a booming stock market and cutting 350,000 people from the federal payroll -- would have delighted Ronald Reagan. Whenever Clinton veered to the left -- over gays in the military, over health care -- he was slapped down."